How the Gospel works with my pain

26 September 2015

I just finished watching the Women's General meeting, and I feel incredible.

As it began airing, I felt a hesitancy if the words of others' would be capable of reaching the very specific divots inside of me from my divorce four years ago.  So I folded my arms and said a prayer that I would find resonance with the specific grievances that I hold.

It's just that the release of pain is so ongoing.  Pain that you've worked and scrubbed and journaled answers over to no end - it remains present in subtle ways.  And after awhile it seems obsolete and just downright frustrating that you have to keep requesting a release.  How many times should one have to pull out the same splinter before it will just disintegrate?

But I have to remind myself of the process.  "Handing things over to God" isn't like a dump truck that we can just toss in our hurts and say goodbye forever.  But rather, a partnership agreement where God says, "I'm in this with you to offer light as you go.  Your darkness doesn't become mine, but my light does become yours."  He doesn't promise permanent release, but rather, consistent added vitality.

And when I am in the dim corridors of my pain, thinking in a small fashion, feeling through my callouses, I do have many outlets that help me feel restored.  To where I'm no longer in a dim setting, but in front of a bright, sunny window.  However, the light of Heavenly Father has always been the resource that pulls me the furthest out of the dimness.  Seemingly to a mountain top where the spirit within me feels awakened in a vast and purifying sense.  With so much light as though I'm looking directly at the sun.

So God's promise isn't to take our cracks away, but infuse them with joy.  And would I experience such an intense washing of joy in my spirit if I hadn't been cracked by something in the first place?  As Sister Reeves said tonight, when we finally make it to the other side and feel God's full light and love for us, we'll say, "was that all that was required of me?" 

So though the outcome of overcoming pain simply cannot be absolute release - thus all questions cannot be answered, all memory cannot fade - but we are forever allowed to request more light.  Light that seeps into even the most obscure of our cracks and enriches our spirits with the most powerful joy.  And that is how I feel tonight.  I have a huge amount of happiness and joy in my soul.  I love being in the fold's of God's spirit and feeling that total trance of light.

As Carol McConkie said:  "she shined with pure light."

"God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain."

C.S Lewis

Upward and onward,

"When you offer peace instead of division, when you offer faith instead of fear, when you offer someone a place at your table instead of keeping them out because they’re different or messy or wrong somehow, you represent the heart of Christ."

Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipe

image source

To be inaurgurated


Last night I went to an inauguration ceremony for all new Utah CPA's.  Despite that I received my license last June.  But their cut-off dates are all skewy, so there I was, getting recognized for being a "new" licensee, even though I'm kind of not.

It was great.

Last Tuesday, Ryan and I met an elderly missionary couple at Costco.  And the man inquired of Ryan what he did for a profession, and then he turned to me and asked how I liked being a housewife.  HAHAHA!  What?  You know we don't have children, so you don't even assume I have a retail job, just straight to wife homebody?  Okay, well, actually I'm a CPA and I bruised my tailbone from studying so hard to get that thing, so I hope you can recognize my ability to offer mental sacrifices, ALSO, to this world.  I just believe in people with passions.  Passions of any sort.  Just something that they woooork hard for.  And there is no greater gift than giving them honor in it.

So it felt really good to be present last night in an environment where men and women alike are proud of themselves and their hard work.  I felt safe there to just own it.  It's so SO great to be proud of yourself - I love that feeling.

And also it was the night of ComicCon, so the hotel where I got my car valeted (because why not when you're getting a free $75 meal?), was the location for many ComicCon attendees.  It was very enjoyable for me to see all the costumes.

So at the ceremony, we awkwardly ate hors d'oeuvres at these little stand-up tables and small talked with each other.  It was a situation where everyone seemed to know each other, but I was the newbie.  I felt horribly uncomfortable, and I kept checking my phone to watch the minutes pass.  But then I was asked to share more about myself, and I got the table laughing several times - accounting jokes -- so I relaxed and felt a lot more comfortable.  Then we moved into a larger room, and began on our feast.  Then listened to the keynote speaker who was a local winner on American Warrior Ninja, after discovering his wife had a terminal one-of-a-kind illness.  She sat in her wheelchair next to him, and they took turns sharing their story.  Interesting.  Very sad though.

Then the award ceremony began, and a number of recognized CPA's went to the front of the room.  I scoffed from the way the officiators would hand them the award, but then white-knuckle that thing and refuse to release it to the recipient until both had sufficiently posed for the camera in front of them.  I whispered to another new Inaugurate next to me that I find this to be so political.  Then my name was called, and I went up to pose with the large, white-haired man, and a skinny, colorfully-dressed lady.  Who are they?  Who knows.  Because they didn't tell us, but we are to assume they are important since they need to be recognized handing over every award.  I mean, could they knight us or something?  That might give us more of a connection to them.

And then, after all was said and done, and everyone was saying their goodbyes - because our dinner table was actually really entertaining and pleasant getting to know everyone - I lolly-gagged back at the table, pretending to be rummaging in my purse.  Once everyone had turned their backs to the table, I took the cloth napkin in my lap, and full-fisted the pile of lemon cheesecake still sitting on my dessert plate, and then I quickly shoved it in my purse.  Just then, one of the couples from our table came back to congratulate me again.  My hand was still in my purse, so I told them I was looking for my keys.  "Perhaps you should dump your purse on the table to see if you can find them?" said the lady.  "HAHA!..  no."  I said.  "Oh, ya know what, I just remembered I got valet parking, so I don't even have my keys."  And then I rushed passed them, retrieved my car, and drove home.

And Ryan greatly enjoyed his lemon cheesecake.

Sidenote - that food must have sat heavy in my stomach last night, because at some point in the middle of the night, Ryan's arm pressed down on my hip, and I was certain that was his gesture to wake me up because it was my turn to feed the kittens.  So after waking up, I didn't get out of bed and willed myself back to sleep, not because I realized we don't HAVE any kittens to feed, but because I didn't want to until morning.

image source

A snuggly upcoming weekend

25 September 2015

This week has been a busy one for me.  
That's what happens when you take off for an unexpected half week in Alaska. 
Evenings were full of quite rejuvenation at home with Ryan.  Taking turns cooking dinner, watching Master Chef Junior while we eat on TV trays - ha! classic newlywed status - while I sigh every four minutes, "awww they are so cute!"  That show is slaying my insides over the brilliant and hilarious child souls.  
I've also been reading a book from my friend Brooke.  Reading alllll the time.  Coming home at lunch so I can lay on my living room floor and read while I eat.  Sitting on the countertop while I stir our veggies in the saute pan.  And in bed after Ryan is fast asleep.  I've been working out in the mornings, per usual, and LOVING it! 

And last but not least, I began a new meditation series.  I plugged in my sun light this morning and sat in front of it cross-legged and did my hypnosis for deep self-love.  It's amazing!

Some resonating quotes for me lately:

TABLE OF CONTENTS - Philippines Journey

19 September 2015

I finished writing about my Philippines trip!  I feel SO accomplished to get this complete.  I wrote it while burrowed in the forest in Alaska in Ryan's plaid wool shirt.  Doesn't get better than that!

Here it is:

Part 1-

Chapter 1 - deciding to go
Chapter 2 - travel to the Philippines
Chapter 3 - Walter joins and we arrive in Cebu
Chapter 4 - assembling care packages
Chapter 5 - Preston and a miracle
Chapter 6 - meeting the ZEDRU team
Chapter 7 - the decision to go to Leyte
Chapter 8 - grabbing hold of God

Part 2-

Chapter 9 - reaching the destroyed island of Leyte
Chapter 10 - the day of our medical mission
Chapter 11 - the day of body retrieval 
Chapter 12 - the day of travel to Tacloban
Chapter 13 - the final stop and the day we leave Leyte
Chapter 14 - a day of relief and prepping
Chapter 15 - the day of our last medical mission
Chapter 16 - a week and half of backpacking the islands  (almost complete!)

Here is also an article I wrote last year for about our trip.

It is a lot to read, and these are still up for massive editing.  But this is something I will surely cherish when sharing with my children.  Nothing makes me more happy than writing about and reliving my travels!

Upward and onward,

Part 15 - Philippines Journey: the day of our last medical mission

The next day we went to purchase more medical supplies with the donation money from my friends. I like this picture because it shows the exhaustion in my face.

Then we loaded up to head out to another island!


The boat to take us out to Kamotes.
We unloaded our relief goods and headed for the local church. 

The island of Kamotes was BEAUTIFUL! I choked on my breath a few times because I couldn't take in all the beauty! Also, notice the books on the dashboard... (Book of Mormon and Teachings of the Prophets Manual). Made my heart smile and say, "yep, this Gospel is true even on the other side of the world!"

While the team rode in the back,they insisted I ride up front to stay out of the direct sun. They all treated me so well.

We stopped at a local church and sat through their last bit of service before distributing our final goods to them.  The little girls at the church wanted to braid my hair, so I let them.  I love having my hair played with!

After distributing the relief goods to a local church and performing another medical mission, our team stopped for lunch at Willy's family's house. Look closely... see any eyeballs on the table? That was my favorite dish. Arch teased me, "Geez, I've never seen Chantel eat so much!"

After this final relief mission, we had to say goodbye to our Filippino friends. Mace, Preston, and I were left to our own adventures. We went back to the island of Cebu, and used the remainder of our donation money to buy more relief food. But we could only buy what we could carry on our backs. Walking through the wild streets of Cebu with a large box of sardines on my shoulders, while Mace and Preston each carried a 50 lb. bag of rice on their shoulders, dodging cars, and slowly watching Mace's back get sweaty, and hearing my own panting, was actually a really cool moment. It really showed our dedication and zeal to exhaust all our energy in serving these people.

Upward and onward,

Part 14 - Philippines Journey - a day of relief and prepping

We headed through the city to drop off our bags and have a day of "Stress Debriefing." Basically relax and have fun!  We stopped to eat some chocolate rice - a very normal breakfast in the Philippines.

We took pictures.
went to a historic site 
went shopping
and then went to the beach.
The sunsets in the Philippines are the best I've ever seen. 
We went out to eat at a fancy restaurant. When we entered, a bakla was guiding people to a table. A bakla is a Filipino man who has become a woman, and they are over the top in makeup and mannerisms. The bakla was hollering at me to come to the table, and I froze in fear. I couldn't look away, or step forward, or think, or anything because I was so afraid of it! So Mace had to grab my shoulders and guide me forward.
Later that night we went shopping for more relief goods. We were running low on donation money, so I logged in to my account so see if any of my friends had donated. A number of my friends had! I broke into tears and called Chelsea Cunningham, barely being able to talk through my tears. I was so touched by the friends who were so eager to support me. I had been feeling so disconnected and experiencing so much that I greatly needed their strength. To all of you, THANK YOU! 

 (Brice Hessing, Chase Hessing, Jennifer Steele Gessel, Jeanette Ockerman, Nora Ballantyne, Joanne Bird, Molly Aufdermauer, Chelsea Cunningham, Reta Cunningham, Hilary C Johnson, Amy Watson).

After Mace and I purchased two sleeping bags, because let's face it, our bony backs couldn't take much more of the hard floors, we decided the shopping bags were large enough for humans like myself. So we tried it out...
... It didn't work so well. 
I withdrew the donations from my account so we could get more medical supplies in the morning. What a load of money. Also, this picture depicts just how exhausted I was. Crazy eyes!
Then we all went out to dinner at our favorite place Mang Inasal, where you can get an unlimited amount of rice! (But let me just make it known that I will not be eating any more rice for a year...)

And then I fell asleep hours before everyone else. And this became such a common occurrence that the team would tease me often. "Oh look everyone! Chantel's not asleep in the corner." But really, I could NOT stay awake, no matter the amount of noise, children jumping over my head, water dripping on me... nothin.
Upward and onward,

Part 13 - Philippines Journey: our final stop and the day we leave Leyte

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.
We ride through the dark of night to the adjoining town, knowing they have not received any help yet.  We have only 60 sacks of relief goods left.  Each package contains enough food for a family to survive for a few days.  This was all we had to give, but we were hoping it would help provided sustenance until larger relief groups could reach these outskirting cities.  As Mace bravely told people - "that is the whole reason we went.  There existed plenty of money to donate, but no one available to distribute supplies.  That is why we spent $10,000 combined to make this trip and help with the distribution."

We finally reach Tolosa, though my eyes are hardly staying open.  These days have been so long and fatiguing, with little sustenance to support our efforts.  We drive to the LDS chapel in Tolosa.  Also the only building left standing.  There were many families that had taken refuge in this church, and they welcomed us with open arms.

Once we entered the building, we realized there were dozens of large families staying here.  Children were running and playing everywhere, and all the rooms were packed with adults.  It felt so good to be with so many protected people.  Everyone was in such high spirits.

Our crew was utterly exhausted from the day, so we quickly set up a little corner of the room for us to eat a small meal, and then we began medically assisting all who were in this building.  I remembered a bag of lollipops my neighbor donated to me before this trip, so I went out amongst all the children and gave them suckers one-by-one.  They all swarmed me, eager to receive a treat.

While ZEDRU was cleaning wounds and offering medicine to the people, Mace had laid out our tiny Delta red blankets on the tile floor where we would be sleeping.  Children were running and playing all around.  But as soon as the suckers were all passed out, I joined Mace on the blankets.  We felt so relieved and happy to be able to sit down and rest and be amongst so many people!  We laughed about what a sight this was.  Our thin little pieces of fabric on the tile floor serving as our bedding; eating only small amounts of ramen, rice, and sardines everyday; and children stepping on my hair as I laid their on the hard tile.  In our hearts, we felt so much joy and happiness.  But we knew these circumstances would be utterly intolerable back home, so we couldn't stop laughing.  I fell asleep almost instantly.  The loud shrieks of the children, the bright lights overhead.  There I laid in the middle of the chapel floor, sleeping soundly.

Mace told me the next morning that the team had stayed up late to discuss what our plans were for the next day.  He laughed because I didn't wake up once despite kids jumping over me, and I was even sleeping under a leak in the roof that dripped on me all night long and drenched my clothes.  That's how exhausted I was.

But Mace told me the conversation the team had.  Because we had distributed all the goods we had remaining to the survivors of Tolosa, and our additional goods had not arrived, we didn't have much to keep us going.  The team decided it would be best to return to Cebu to restock.  As was the case with this whole trip, I hardly ever knew what was happening; I just went along with the plans as they came.  It was a grand adventure to never know what was next!

The next morning, I am awakened by the alarm of someone on the team.  It was still pitch black outside, and I learn from Mace that it is 4 am, and it is time to go.  

We pack up with the small lights we have, with the Filipino refugees sleeping all around.  I fell asleep amidst such commotion, but at some point, everyone had winded down and now they were all fast asleep.  I mention to Mace that my clothes are all wet.  He laughs at me for sleeping all night in a puddle and not even noticing.  

By 5 am, we are out on the streets with all our belongings, where a bus has been arranged to come pick us up.  The thing about Mom Beth is she just makes things happen somehow.  Mace and I spent a good deal of time talking about her leadership and how well she knows how to get things in order, and how well the rest of the team obeys and follows her lead.

As we sat on the side of the road and waited, only being able to see each other because of our headlamps, I finally thought about just how racked I was.  I was starving, dehydrated, sunburned, also had the chills from being wet all the time, entirely enervated and exhausted.  This short mission to the island of Leyte was entirely emotionally and physically draining!

Finally, headlights came around the corner.  Our bus had arrived.  We had much less gear to tote this time.  We all climbed on the bus to begin the four-hour ride back to the port.  As we rode along the bumpy road, I watched the jungle out the window.  Mace sat next to me, and we evaluated the last five days in the Philippines.  What a crazy adventure so far!  We both felt like we should be staying and serving more.  Our time was so short!  Mom Beth told us that even if our body's felt like they could give more, we needed to be aware that our emotional faculties could only handle about three days of being amongst such conditions. 

We stopped at the port for a nice meal.  Our first nice, full meal in three days.  We gorged on chicken and vegetables.  It all felt so good and soothing.  Our bodies finally getting the nourishment they so desperately needed. 

Mace, Preston, and I tried to decide our next move.  We were going to ride with the crew back to Cebu, where they would then return to Manila for their rejected supplies.  Walter had to go home to go back to work.  So that left Mace, Preston, and myself free to decide what was next for us.  We talked about Michael's offer to come back and assist the Salvation Army in Tanauan.  But given what Mom Beth said about letting your emotional faculties rest for a few days before coming back to the destroyed island, we decided to see what relief opportunities we could assist with back in Cebu.   We decided to return to Cebu and rest for a few days.

We climbed about the ship that would take us back to Cebu.  Mace and I leaned over the railings as the boat pulled away and discussed how meaningful that work had been.  The rest of the world had faded away - our problem stresses.  All that existed was our desire to serve and assist.   

Then we laid down on the bunk beds on the ship.  I pulled out my CPA books, knowing I had a test in a couple weeks.  But in no time, we were all asleep.  

All of our senses were filled with such peace.  Never have I been apart of such a grand adventure, just planning moment-by-moment, yet yielding such great impact.  I've never witnessed so many consecutive miracles.  So much divine support, divine guidance, divine peace. 

It was an experience that I will assuredly never forget.

Upward and onward,